A beautiful day for a ride

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Today is a beautiful day for a ride, not a cloud in the sky and it is warm, unusual for March, so I pull my jodhpurs on and drive down to the stables.

I chat to Lucy in the feed room, collect Ant from the field, give him a quick flick over with a brush, pick out his feet and tack him up.

Off we go to the park. Ant walks normally to the end of the road then power walks the rest of the way. I could have a hot seat as Jeanette reckons Ant is slow. There is nothing slow about Ant. I think I maybe need to avoid riding out with her as we clearly have different concepts of speed, either that or she has seen a side of Ant I am yet to witness.

So we power walk up the hill, towards the beautiful Georgian hall, which must have fantastic views over the surrounding countryside and take the track towards the fields of pigs.

Where I notice a man up a tree, a very tall tree, holding a chain saw and yelling at  a man at the foot of the tree. And I see a sign next to them that says ‘treecutting’. My heart sinks and I wonder how Ant will be with treecutting as it is now too late to turn back. I shout ‘hello’ to the treecutters to make them think twice about treecutting until we have gone past.

They are friendly and don’t do any treecutting.

We carry on and I think, lovely, we can enjoy this now and then I notice another yellow hat in a tree and one at the bottom of the trunk, just a bit further round.

And another couple of yellow hats two hundred yard on and more and more and more all along the woods. In fact, in total there must be about fifteen lots of treecutters attacking different trees throughout the park.

Brrrrrrrrrrr, brrrrrrrrrrrrrr, brooooooooooooom, brrrrrrrrrrrr. The tranquility of the sunny afternoon is shattered by the song of chainsaws.

And I begin to wonder what star I was born under.

The Rug

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Over Murphy’s stable door is a rug, a thin navy blue quilted rug. That’s odd, I think, where is his navy and green checked rug, he wears underneath? Or maybe Jeanette just wants this one on?

I go into the stable and heave off Murphy’s turnout rug and throw on the thin quilted stable rug. As I carry on round the yard, I start to shiver. The afternoon is getting colder. I send Jeanette a text to say is it just this one rug, she wants him to wear?

I get no reply, so go and hunt for Murphy’s navy and green checked rug. After much searching, I locate it. It is lying on the floor behind the door of the empty stable next door to Murphy.

I go back in to Murphy, take off his quilted stable rug and start again with the rugs – navy and green checked, followed by the quilted stable rug.

He looks pleased, if not a little perplexed at my doing his rugs for the second time in one afternoon.

I carry on changing rugs and picking out feet. Larry needs stable bandages on and Gemma needs her foot tubbing with salt water, the horses that live out still  need feeding, there are waters to refill, more hay and feeds to put round.

Then I get a text from Jeanette to say ‘just his quilted rug’.

I say ‘are you sure. It’s freezing?’

‘Oh yes, he’ll be fine.’

I know Murph is chunky but he’s clipped and it is icy.

So I go back into his stable for the third time and pull his rugs off and put just the thin quilted one on.

He’s just warm enough with the navy and green check and the thin quilted one: his teeth are going to be chattering in just the quilted.

I feel so bad about taking it off, I even check Jeanette’s list of when she’s going to be in. It looks like she’s in the following morning so I can’t ignore the only one rug request!

In one afternoon I’ve been in to do one horse’s rugs three times and feel I am caught between a rock and a hard place!

Note to self: don’t ask next time!

 

Bisto has gone

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Bisto pops the jump in the arena, clears the five bar gate (normally opened and closed for horses to enter and leave) and trots back to his stable.

We all look at each other.

Ollie shouts “Did you record that?” and then runs after Bisto.

I have to say, this colt is mighty sporty!

Leaving the arena and splashing through the mud back to the yard has turned Bisto’s white bandages the same colour as the rest of him. He is now all Bisto. Not such a good look for You Tube.

Having jumped out of the arena, Bisto clearly feels he has done enough.

I think he’ll just need to do a small planned jump and leave the arena with us rather than on his own and that will be his work for today.

However, he’s going to do a bit more and my job is now to be gate monitor as he is no longer heading for the herd (Justine and I in the middle) but trying to make a quick exit! And I am to wave a lunge whip, should Bisto dare to come close enough to the gate to escape.

This would not be so bad apart from Bisto is quite fearless and lunge whip waving has to be enthusiastic enough to make him stop and not leap out of the arena, but not enough to scare the living daylights out of him!

Each time he screeches to a halt just in front of me!

When he has done the jump he is supposed to jump and cantered to me, my job is to collect him back up and give him back to Ollie.

There must be a better way to film young horses, in fact any horses.

I wonder if Ollie has tried standing in the middle with a lunge whip with whoever is recording standing at the edge of the arena?

Getting a video of Bisto may not be as easy as originally thought. It could take a few weeks of loose schooling over small jumps.

That said, if you want an eventer, watch the footage of him leaving the arena: he makes the five bar gate look like a cavaletti!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Larry and the Zamar machine

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Larry is to have the Zamar machine on his legs. The what? I hear you say.

The Zamar system is a time saving alternative to applying ice boots for cold and bandages to the horse’s legs for warmth, but not if you’re the one standing with the horse! It is used in competition horses before and after competition for maintentance and also for injury.

Needless to say, Larry is having it on for injury. Somehow he has managed to bang his cannon bone.

The Zamar machine has wraparound boots for the horse’s legs. The boots are filled with glycol, which gets extremely cold and cools the legs, and come with lots of hoses and so the horse, when fully kitted out, looks like an astronaut. Recommended factory settings are between 3 and 40 degrees Celsius however, when the machine says it is at minus 5 degrees Celsius, you are apparently good to go?

Only you don’t do any going, you have to stand for twenty minutes with the horse wearing the contraption of hoses which go over the withers down to the legs and boots.

You can get cold only Zamar machines and Zamars that provide hot and cold therapy in cycles to the horse’s legs and massage to promote improved circulation and healing. I presume the one we’re using is cold only as we’re still bandageing Larry’s legs for warmth.

No better horse than Larry to have to stand still with! I jest.

Yesterday, we made the mistake of putting the Zamar in the stable with Larry and me. He tried to knock the machine over, chew the hoses, pull his boots off, bite my jacket, nibble my wellies, pull my hair, and bite my finger. This required patience as if Larry senses he is annoying you, he backs off taking the Zamar with him!

This wouldn’t be so bad apart from the Zamar machine is expensive and would appear to be a little top heavy, so any lack of attention could lead to it inadvertently being knocked for six! Although, the boots are allegedly quick release and if the horse pulls back, the boots come off. Sounds excellent in theory, but in practice I’m not convinced they would quick release quite so readily! It looked like the machine was about to fall over rather than quick release to me.

And as for Larry having to have the boots on for twenty minutes. Say no more!

Today my heart sank when Ollie said Larry had to have the Zamar on again. However, this time I had a better plan – leave the Zamar outside the stable and stand outside the stable with the Zamar, leaving Larry inside the stable once attached to it.

This, together with the fact I had a packet of polos in my pocket, worked a treat. I treated Larry with polos and tickled his nose for twenty minutes.

He’s not used to polos as he struggled to get them off my hand, but he loved them!

Jeanette and Georgia came over with a cup of tea to chat. I was able to drink my tea and tickle Larry’s nose and feed him polos. Apart from being frozen to the bone from standing still outstide the stable for twenty minutes in sub zero temperatures, I have to say that today’s Zamar time went very quickly indeed!

Note to self: I think I might need to buy one of those heated gilets if Larry has to do many more days on the Zamar.

A new broom

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How sad am I?

I am seriously excited about a new yard brush!

What’s even more sad, is that it’s not even mine!

Jeanette bought it from Castle Rider in Fram and it is quite honestly the best yard brush I have ever used! It is lightweight, brightly coloured and it springs along the ground, leaving no trace of straw or shavings behind!

I found myself imploring Ollie to have a go with it and Roz. In fact, anyone who came on the yard. I think I need to tone down this crazy behaviour or they’ll be locking me up.

Both had a tentative brush with it but I could see their excitement was far more contained than mine, probably because they do not have to endure the end of the day ‘little sweep’, when you are on your knees with exhaustion and still have the yard to make presentable!

I noticed on its label it said ‘Tubtrugs’. That said, it’s a brush not a trug! Tubtrugs are clearly geniuses, making trugs, brushes and who knows what else. I must investigate the Tubtrug empire.

Apparently, there’s one yellow brush left in the shop. I may just have to go and treat myself!

It’s one of those pieces of equipment, that when you go to do someone else’s horses, you really wish you had one with you.

The best thing about it, is that it is only £14. Money well spent I’d say!

Poor Jeanette. She bought the brush and she’s used it a bit, but nowhere near as much as me

Shame the one in the shop is yellow. It won’t go so well with my pink fork!

If I keep failing to buy matching equipment, I’m going to look like Joseph and his amazing technicoloured dreamcoat soon.

But, I’ve just got to have one!

 

 

Frozen pipes

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“You’ll be okay doing the pump won’t you?” asks Ollie. “Be careful not to fall in!”

Heights are not my thing at the best of time, neither are depths!

I look at him and give a half smile, which translates as ‘are you having a laugh?’

Ollie translates this as ‘of course, no problem’, thanks me profusely and says, “See you next week!” jumping in his extreme vehicle and giving me a wave, the snow spraying behind him as he heads off piste towards the drive.

With ‘Ding Dong Bell, Pussy’s in the well’ going round my head, I slide to the well. The area surrounding the iron cover is sheet ice and snow. The well is, I don’t know how deep, but from the cover to the water surface is at least 8 feet. There appears to be no way to climb out and call me a pessimist but in sub zero temperatures I think you’d die of hypothermia within the first ten minutes of falling in!

But the tap on the main yard is frozen, as is the tap in the tundra tack room and the outside toilet. In fact, there is not even a drop of drinking water on the yard. We had drinking water last year, so it must be decidedly more arctic, either that or the drinking water has been turned off by accident. Using the pump to get water out of the well is the only way of getting water to the yard. Fine when it is all rigged up, but rigging it up or putting it away is a job in itself requiring strength and mental fortitude.

I heave the pump out of the water. Slowly, slowly it comes up to ground level. The freezing water drips out of it as it comes higher. Then the hose comes off it. I am left holding the hose and the pump splashes back into the water. Good job the pump is on a piece of baling twine tied to the fence or else it could be good bye pump!

I heave the pump out of the water again. The water drips off it. I get it to ground level and squeeze it through the gap between the side and iron cover.

My heart beats faster as I move closer to the edge. The ground is slippy. I grip the freezing iron lid and heave and heave, finally dragging it into place.

I lean against the wall and breathe.

When is the big thaw due?

 

 

Snow

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When I was little I loved the snow. Snow meant no school, a snowman in the garden, rosy cheeks and drying off in front of a roaring fire. Lovely!

Well, it wasn’t a real roaring fire, it was a gas fire that if you lay too close to it, made the sleeve of your jumper change colour. But the thought of it still gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Now, I still love the idea of snow, but it fills me with trepidation on a number of counts – that I won’t be able to slither down our track to the main road to get to the stables in my car, that I will crash the car on the way to the stables, that having arrived I will not be able to slide down the drive to the stables without going through the fence, that I will not make it back up the drive on the way home without going through aforementioned fence, that I will crash on the way home and that if I don’t crash on the way home, then I may not be able to get the car down the track to my house.

This is without thinking about the resident horses and what they think of the snow. These are not cuddly, ride once a week horses but lean, mean exercise machines who are addicted to exercise. If they were people they’d be gymaholics who run before cycling to work, go the gym in their lunch hour and that is before cycling home and going out to play squash till ten every evening.

However, with the exception of Ollie and Becky, everyone has been hexed by the Snow Queen and are noticeable by their absence. Their horses meanwhile, have been transformed and not in a good way!

Dessie, the most predictable horse in the yard has turned into a rearing psychopath whose athleticism is quite remarkable. I didn’t think a horse could go from the field all the way to the stable block on two legs. She clearly has been hit by the Snow Queen and now thinks she is in Dancing on Ice. My experience of hanging onto the end of the lead rope while she danced on two legs was terrifying. The Snow Queen’s spell only momentarily being broken by the haybarn where Dessie glimpsed the haylage. This gave me chance to breathe and made the last part of the skate back to the yard slightly more bearable.

Meanwhile, Idris has taken on the mantle of Little Ted (the meanest pony in the paddock before he changed yards). He has been vying for this role for some time, but today out in the snow has been crowned the most evil by the Snow Queen.

I know he didn’t want the bit in his mouth which was still cold in spite of my best efforts to warm it, but rearing and lashing out with his front legs has not endeared him to me.

So now, when I see it snowing, I still initially think no school, snowmen and the glow of the fire and get a warm fuzzy feeling and then I think of crashing my car and dealing with hexed snow horses.

Funny how life changes!

Happy New Year!

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Happy New Year! A time for new beginnings, for resolutions, reflection and a time to think ‘am I in flow?’ and ‘where to next?’

As I think about the past year and am thankful for the opportunities I’ve been given, I try to work out when I’ve been happiest and where I’ve most been in flow.

I am thinking about this as I lead an explosive horse into the yard, the mud nearly over the top of my wellies.

As my wellies disappear in the lake of formerly dirt track, unavoidable on the way to the stable block I say out loud, in a crazy, talking to myself kind of way, ‘am I in flow?’

This is worrying on two counts, firstly that I am questioning whether I am in flow doing something horsey and secondly that I am talking to myself!

According to Barbara Sher, the way to work out how in flow you are, is to rate how happy you feel on a scale from H1 – H10 when you are doing different things, H1 being not so happy and H10 be the happiest you can be. Simple!

I decide, it is probably easier to be ‘in flow’ working with horses in summer.

As for what exactly I want to achieve this year. This could take some consideration, but it will definitely involve more experimentation, more playing with horses and possibly some voluntary work with the RDA (Riding for the Disabled).

What are you going to do this year?

Wishing you a happy, healthy and horsey 2013!

Yard trip to Olympia

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One minute until scheduled departure time for the bus, but I can’t park as the bus is in my parking space. The bus finally moves. I drive past the mounting block and horse boxes, reverse and swing my car into my parking space. I leap out my car, wave my remote vaguely at it and dash up the wet bus steps. I can’t see who’s inside as the windows are all steamed up. It would appear, they have been in there a while!

The bus driver says “Can you do your seatbelt up?” through a toothless mouth which concertinas his whole head when he speaks or chews. He is monotone and neither friendly nor unfriendly. I do it up – I can’t remember ever having to do my seatbelt up on a bus before.

Jeanette passes smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches down to me and a can of Fosters. I’m not sure Fosters goes with smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches, but there’s a first for everything.

I am sitting with Grace, the little girl who loaned Ted the Teeth. She talks non-stop about her new pony, however this is not all bad as before we know we are driving through central London!

We are on our way to Olympia, The Olympia Horse Show. I never thought I would get to this point in the day as getting there has been far from straight forward.

I was originally working a full day but I swapped with Lucy. She’s done my full day and I’ve done her half day, dashed home and got changed, getting back to the yard to catch the bus, which was supposed to be 3pm. Perfect!

It turns out however, we are leaving for Olympia at 1pm not 3pm, which when I realize induces a small panic as how could I possibly muck out all the stables I’ve got to do, go home and get showered and be ready to leave by 1pm?

My small panic makes me tell Ollie I’ve decided not to go if he’s not got the tickets but would have mince pies with Lucy instead. However, Ollie has got the tickets, which calls for a rethink.

I will go in early and work like a dog. The morning of Olympia I start work early, so early it is still dark.

All the horses are fed and rugged up by the time Lucy arrives. Everyone who is going to Olympia mucks in or rather mucks out and I do have enough time to drive home, get cleaned up and drive back to the yard for the bus’ departure.

Olympia is nothing short of fantastic, however, I’m not sure it is fantastic enough to warrant only four hours sleep before getting up for a full day at work on Sunday, which is a killer. It would have been bad enough without three extra straw beds for the brood mares, who have just been brought in.

Note to self – Next year remember to ask for the weekend off!

 

 

 

 

 

Yard Christmas dinner at The Station pub

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The yard Christmas dinner is at The Station pub, a good food pub, or so I understand. I’ve been there once before for lunch, but can’t actually remember the lunch, which means it was neither outstanding nor dismal.

I arrive at the pub, park my car and notice the notice that says, ‘absoulutely no parking for pub customers’, so I move my car and park on the main road. This is not a good start.

I look at my watch. I’ll just about be in time. I dash to the pub door and push it. It doesn’t open. I pull it. It doesn’t open. I push it again. It still doesn’t open. People inside the pub look at the door This is embarrassing. I walk round the front of the pub to see if there’s another door. There’s not. I walk round the back of the pub to see if there’s another door there. There’s not. I walk back to the door, where I started. The inside people at the bar look at me as if I have escaped from somewhere. I push the door again. I pull it. I stand and wait…

I rattle the door again and sigh and this door still does not push. Neither does it pull. I now feel as if I have been outside the pub for a lifetime. As my eyes get used to the gloaming I realize the door to the Station pub is not locked to keep the diners warm, it has a latch.

Finally, I manage to open the door to the pub. The people on bar stools at the bar look at me as if to say the person who has escaped from somewhere has managed to get in the pub.

I think, thank God we are going to be seated in the snug.

I walk through the door and close it quietly behind me. A hundred eyes are on me.

To my left is a table with an older couple seated at it, “Behind you, you’ve not shut the door,” squawks the woman.

Stunned, I push the door until it clicks behind me.

The squawking older couple woman carries on eating her turkey pie.

I am still reeling with incredulity and as I pass the couple’s table and I say “Thank you might be nice.”

I don’t wait for her reply but spirit myself to the snug. I sink down on a chair and think, this evening can only get better.

“Happy Christmas!” I pin my sparkly pony name badge/place setting on my jumper.

I think I need a drink but unfortunately I am driving.